Trump administration revokes demand that Twitter unmask critic's account

The Trump administration has rescinded a demand that Twitter Inc. share information about a user who has criticized the new president, the social media company said Friday in a court filing.

Twitter received an administrative order to turn over records nearly a month ago, but said it refused to do so without evidence the information was crucial to a criminal investigation. After the government reportedly failed to provide such justification and refused to drop the demand, the San Francisco company launched a preemptive strike Thursday by suing the Trump administration. Twitter sought a court ruling that would call the demand unconstitutional.

That won’t be necessary now, the company declared. Free speech advocates claimed victory. And the targeted user — @ALT_uscis — thanked Twitter and attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union for “standing up for the right of free anonymous speech.” The account posted a message Friday saying it would take a pause after an “extremely difficult” and anxiety-filled “past few days.”

Claiming to be run by a rogue member of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the account has condemned President Trump’s introduction of travel and migrant bans. It’s among several accounts that popped up in January purporting to be dissenting federal staffers after the new administration put the kibosh on critical posts from official government Twitter pages. None of the authors appears to have provided evidence that they are government staffers.

Twitter declined to comment on legal maneuvers, including why it took the unusual step of going to court before facing a lawsuit from the government.

But 1st Amendment experts said Twitter’s actions sent a clear message to users and the government that it will go to great lengths to protect political activists — even if that means going up against a prolific Twitter user such as Trump.

The Justice Department, and Customs and Border Protection, the agency behind the initial order, declined to comment. / PGP

Twitter: @peard33


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1:45 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that Customs and Border Protection declined to comment.

This article was originally published at 12:05 p.m.

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